The Alzheimer's Association Statement on Passage of the Budget Reconciliation Bill (HR 4241/ S 1932)
The Alzheimer's Association is extremely disappointed in budget legislation passed by the Senate this week that may deny Medicaid benefits to deserving older and disabled Americans, who have no place else to turn for their long term care needs. The legislation makes seniors the victims in this attempt to reform federal health care programs. This bill could have a devastating impact on millions of Americans with Alzheimer's disease, who will be forced to turn to Medicaid because they have depleted their own resources on costly care. Currently, more than 850,000 Americans with Alzheimer's disease rely on Medicaid for help.
The legislation's Medicaid changes include three provisions that are particularly burdensome to those with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. One increases the number of years that a person's finances are subjected to government audit. A second would penalize elderly Medicaid applicants after they've already depleted their resources and are in need of costly care. And, the third denies Medicaid assistance to anyone who happens to own a house that has increased in value beyond an arbitrary amount set by the government.
These changes may put nursing homes in the position of kicking out residents who are declared ineligible after they have been admitted. It also may prevent people from getting into nursing care facilities in the first place or from receiving necessary care at home and in the community. For many, Medicaid is a last resort. The changes the Senate passed, while directed to a few affluent Americans who would hide assets in order to qualify for government support, could in reality eliminate any chance for many vulnerable, modest income people who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease of ever receiving the care and support they need.
To ensure these new legislative changes don't victimize elderly Americans who need and deserve assistance from the Medicaid program, we call on Congress to create a special monitoring program within the federal government that will collect vital information on who is being denied access to help. We also call on the government to work on a meaningful and dramatic reform of our nation's health and long term care system especially as it affects older Americans and people with chronic illnesses like Alzheimer's disease. Medicare and Medicaid will falter and fail if we as a nation don't face the looming crisis of an aging baby boom generation and the growing burden of chronic disease. The United States needs to initiate a dialog focusing on a national long-term health care policy, not driven by budget deficits, but by sound policy.
The Alzheimer's Association is ready to work with Congress to develop a national long-term care policy, which must include as one component a national commitment to preventing diseases, such as Alzheimer's, that are creating the enormous financial and emotional burdens confronting Americans today. Research indicates that delaying the onset of Alzheimer's will, in five years, save the Medicaid program five times more than what the Senate cut out of budget this week. Making strategic investments in America's future is sound policy.
The Alzheimer's Association, the world leader in Alzheimer research and support, is the first and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and an eventual cure for Alzheimer's. For 25 years, the donor-supported, not-for-profit Alzheimer's Association has provided reliable information and care consultation; created supportive services for families; increased funding for dementia research; and influenced public policy changes.
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